From beyond the screen of bushes which surrounded the spring, Yost watched the man eating a toaster pastry. A faint path led from the road to the spring. Yost watched the man - a short, squat man, hatless, in worn grey cargo shorts and carrying a hooded jacket over his arm - emerge from the path and kneel to drink from the spring.
The spring welled up at the root of a beech tree and flowed away upon a bottom of whorled and waved sand. It was surrounded by a thick growth of cane and brier, of cypress and gum in which broken sunlight lay sourceless. Somewhere, hidden nearby, a bird sang three notes and ceased.
In the spring the drinking man leaned his face to the broken and myriad reflection of his own drinking. When he rose up he saw among them the shattered reflection of Yost's straw hat, though he had heard no sound.
He saw, facing him across the spring, a man of under size, his hands in his coat pockets, a cigarette slanted from his chin. His suit was blue and white, with a tight, high-waisted clubhouse jacket. His trousers were rolled once and caked with mud above mud-caked shoes. His face had a queer, bloodless color, as though seen by electric light; against the sunny silence, in his slanted straw hat and his slightly akimbo arms, he had that vicious depthless quality of stamped tin.
The drinking man knelt beside the spring. "You've got a lineup card in that pocket, I suppose," he said.
Across the spring Yost appeared to contemplate him with two knobs of soft black rubber. "I'm asking you," Yost said. "What's that in your pocket?"
The other man's jacket was still across his arm. He lifted his other hand toward the coat, out of one pocket which protruded a crushed Royals cap, from the other a book. "Which pocket?" he said.
"Don't show me," Yost said. "Tell me."
The other man stopped his hand. "It's a book."
"Just a book. The kind that people read. Some people do."
"Do you read books?" Yost said.
The other man's hand was frozen above the coat. Across the spring they looked at one another. The cigarette wreathed its faint plume across Yost's face, one side of his face squinted against the smoke like a mask carved into two simultaneous expressions.
From his hip pocket Yost took a soiled handkerchief and spread it upon his heels. Then he squatted, facing the man across the spring. That was about four o'clock on an afternoon in May. They squatted so, facing one another across the spring, for two hours.
"And of course you don't know the name of it," the man across the spring said. "I don't suppose you'd know a sabremetric at all, without it was bunting a runner to second, or getting close to the dirt." Yost said nothing. He squatted in his tight blue suit, his right hand coat pocket sagging compactly against his flank, twisting and pinching cigarettes in his little, doll-like hands, spitting into the spring. His skin had a dead, dark pallor. His nose was faintly aquiline, and he had no chin at all. His face just went away, like the face of a wax doll set too near a hot fire and forgotten.
Like that they stood, hour after hour, breaking day unto night amidst the fledgling tinkling of the spring, the echoes of the birdsong muting the rush of cars and life and progress.
--Follow me on Twitter @JoshuaKWard